Lighting Techniques for Making Movies While You’re Stuck at Home5 min read

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Stuck at home, but want to light a scene like a pro? You can!

Not having access to gear makes lighting a scene difficult, but not impossible. With a little creativity, you’ll be able to make your film look professional with the lighting you already have.

With COVID-19 still around, most of us are spending our time at home. Being stuck somewhere is actually a really good way to get your creative juices flowing, and learn some new techniques to make the space you have work for you. The best part is, once we’re back to normal, you’ll still be able to use the techniques you learn to keep your expenses down.

Filmora put together a video with tips on lighting a scene without fancy studio lights or expensive gear.

If you spent time in film school, you probably remember the days of trying to film without expensive gear. You had to be creative with what you had. If you think it’s impossible to get that “film look” with your current gear, you might be surprised.

Getting the perfect look isn’t done with buying the newest camera. Good lighting, and getting your shot framed properly are the keys to creating a professional looking video.

There are plenty of places you can go to learn how to frame your shot, but since we’re into film lights, we’re just going to focus on the lighting.

Natural Lighting

Want to know a secret about the absolute best light you can use for filming? It’s completely free! The hard part is figuring out how to use that light and make it work in your scene.

Sunlight is great when you’re shooting outdoors, but what if you want to shoot interior shots? You still can. Just find the light and get close to it. Shooting near windows will help you get the most out of your natural light.

Time of day is important when using the sun as your key light. Chances are, you’ve heard of “Golden Hour” or “Magic Hour.” They are the same thing, and are usually an hour before the sun sets, or the first hour after the sun rises.

There are apps that can help you figure out the exact time magic hour starts in your location.

For iPhones, you can use Lumy – it’s designed to help you track photography times. It covers sunrise, sunset, magic hours, and twilight times. It also supports Apple Watch and Apple TV.

For Android devices, you can try Golden Hour – it’s an easy and convenient tool for calculating time and duration of sunrise, sunset and other sunlight phases at any location.

Shooting during golden hour will produce softer shadows, and a very nice fill for your subject. But if you can’t shoot during golden hour, you still have simple, inexpensive ways to manipulate the sunlight to work for you.

If you’re shooting in the middle of the day and notice the sunlight is too bright, or the shadows are too harsh, you can just grab a white bed sheet and hang it over your window, or figure out a way to hang it above you. Remember building forts in the living room as a kid? You’ll finally be able to put those skills to good use.

Using Practicals

We discussed practicals in our film lights guide. They are all the lights that actually appear in your shot. They can be lamps, a TV, a candle, or anything else that gives off light and is used in your scene.

Practicals are nice for using as fill lights, and they also help make your scene look better – just make sure they fit the aesthetic of your shot.

Having practicals deeper in your shot will also give depth to the scene, and help pull your subject out of the background.

Your white bedsheet can come in handy with practicals, too. Use the sheet to bounce the light back into your shot, but make sure you keep your sheet out of frame.

Homework

So many people get hung up on the thinking that they need the newest gear to create an amazing film, and it keeps them from even trying.

Getting the lighting right in your shot will do more for you than any high-end camera. Having good lighting, and an iPhone can produce stunning work. Here’s an example of a short film shot with just an iPhone X.

You should grab whatever camera you have, and test different lighting setups using the light you have available to you. Shoot a scene, review it, and see how you can improve it.

If you do create a video, share a link to it in the comments, or tag us on social media so we can see it!

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